Day 3 – our last day in Prague

Sunday morning was another bright and beautiful day in Prague.  Have I mentioned that the weather has been just about perfect?  Sunny during the day and cool in the evening (I was very glad I brought a light jacket).  After some early morning putzing around, we headed up the hill for breakfast (same fare – bagels, vegetables, cereal, yogurt, etc.). 

This morning, we headed for the Jewish Museum, which consists of the old Jewish Cemetery, various synagogues, and the Old/New Synagogue.  It is a very popular tourist attraction, which is why we wanted to hit it early.  The cemetery is a place for contemplation and I didn’t want to be distracted by hordes of tour groups loudly commenting at each stop. 

The Jewish Cemetery

 

We found the place without too much problem, bought our tickets then headed for the cemetery to walk along the paths between the tombstones.  It was difficult to look at this without being deeply moved.  The Czech Jews who lived in this small area could not expand the cemetery, so they were forced to stack the bodies and stones on top of each other, as much as twelve deep.  When we got there, there were only a few other people and the experience of seeing the old stone markers hit by splashes of sunlight filtering through the trees made it a unique experience. 

The Old-New Synagogue

 

After we left, we visited several of the other smaller synagogues, then made our way to the Old-New Synagogue, which is one of the oldest places of worship for the European Jewish community (dating back to the 13th century).  As I slowly moved through the synagogue, which still holds actual services, I read about the various practices of the historic Jews.  I know a little about Judaism from a class I took back in college, but seeing and reading about the ancient Torah and viewing other historic religious artifacts was fascinating. 

Our next stop was St. Agnes convent, which dates back to the 13th century.  The convent was commissioned by St. Agnes, sister of the aforementioned King Wenceslas I.  Agnes and her brother are both buried here.  Agnes lived to the ripe old age of 70 – an amazing feat during that period.  When I see such ancient history right in front of me, it sometimes just stupefies my mind – it is hard to comprehend how something so old can still be seen and enjoyed today. 

St. Agnes Convent

 

On the way back from St. Agnes’s convent, we stopped at Bakehouse, a local Prague bakery renowned for its pastries.  After splitting a small cheesecake topped with berries, I will add my praises. It was on the expensive side but worth it.  After our mid-morning fortification, we headed down to the main square of Stare Mesto. Since we had about 40 minutes before the hourly viewing of the Astronomical Clock, we walked over to the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and wandered through the church, which was built beginning in 1365. The interior was unprepossessing but rich in history.  Since there was no admission charge, I dropped some money in the donations box when leaving. 

When we left, we hurried over to the Town Hall to see the clock. This time, instead of watching the clock, I watched the other tourist’s faces.  It was fun to see everyone’s oohs and aahs as the Apostles came out of their hiding places in time with the music.  Pat noticed that the music was coming from a live trumpeter on top of the high tower. After his “concert,” everyone applauded. 

Our next stop was the Municipal House and Powder Gate.  Powder Gate is an old medieval tower in the Stare Mesto area that is connected to Municipal House, a gorgeous Art Nouveau building with some of the most beautiful ornate early 20th century decoration I’ve ever seen.  We walked through as much of the building as we could, ogling the decorative chandeliers and tile work throughout. 

Municipal House

 

Powder Gate

 

It was time to head back to the hotel as we had tickets for Don Giovanni that evening at the Estates Theatre. I was looking forward to it, as this theatre actually hosted the premiere performance of Don Giovanni in the late 1700’s, and Mozart himself conducted. 

We decided to have dinner before the performance at Bellavista, a restaurant located up by Strahov Monastery, with beautiful views of the city. According to the information booklet, Sean Connery and members of the Rolling Stones have eaten here.  After freshening up at the hotel, we walked up the hill to Bellavista. 

We had a remarkable dinner–I had salmon glazed with fresh basil pesto, rosemary potatoes and a wonderful glass of Merlot.  Pat had beef goulash with mushroom sauce and dumplings. The meals were delicious by themselves, but even more so given that as we ate on the terrace, we could watch the city below us. We would have liked to linger, but needed to hurry to get to the theatre before 7 pm. 

Dinner at Bellavista

 

 

That required some maneuvering–we wound up taking the tram to the metro, then transferring trains to get to the theatre.  We arrived at 7 pm on the dot and took a second to admire the theatre from the outside – a lovely pale green jewel box. Presenting our tickets, the usher led us up to our seats.Walking through the door, I realized that the seats were in a box on the third floor, and hastily walked back out again. 

You should know that I have a fear of heights.  A bad fear of heights.  I had mentioned it to Pat (who bought the tickets), but it didn’t occur to her that a third floor small theatre box would be considered high (and to be fair, probably wouldn’t to most people).  I tried to go in–I honestly did, but my legs started trembling and I got dizzy, so I decided that seeing Don Giovanni was not in my immediate future. 

Heading back downstairs (I insisted that Pat stay and watch the show), I tried to explain to the box office manager what happened, and hoped that there might be a seat available in the lower stratosphere, but she didn’t understand.  So I ventured out into the evening and wandered around.  Luckily, the theatre was near to Wenceslas Square, which was hopping that night.  I bought some ice cream, then hung out at a coffee shop with a cappuccino and my iPod Touch. 

Around 8 pm, I decided to go back to tell Pat that I was going to head back to the hotel, and wrote down directions for her to get back.  When I arrived, however, it was the first intermission and Pat said that she was ready to go.  The theatre box was very hot and she was getting sleepy from the heat. 

Since she hadn’t seen Wenceslas Square yet, we walked up that way before heading back.  It was a beautiful evening and the square was all lit up, with lots of people bustling in and out of restaurants and pubs.  The National Gallery at the top of the hill was shining like a beacon, and the statue of King Wenceslas sat proudly before us.  Aside from the opera fiasco, it was a perfect ending to our last night in Prague. 

Final night in Prague - Wenceslas Square

 

Tomorrow–on to Cesky Krumlov!

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